Allegheny County Health Department to Stop Biweekly COVID-19 Briefings
Although cases are staying low, officials reminded county residents that the pandemic isn’t over just yet.
The tone was reflective at Wednesday’s COVID-19 briefing with the Allegheny County Health Department — the first in-person briefing since the start of the year, and one of the few in-person briefings since the start of the pandemic almost two years ago to the date.
“As I look back to the start of the pandemic, time seems to have both passed in the blink of an eye and lasted a lifetime,” said Dr. Debra Bogen, director of the county’s Health Department. “The pandemic disrupted and changed everything for everyone — for many people in tragic and heartbreaking ways.”
She cited the more than 3,200 county residents who have died — averaging about four people per day, which she likened to “an entire family lost every 24 hours.”
But case counts have dropped significantly and are staying low, at least for now; in the week of March 6-12, there were 608 infections in Allegheny County, 45 hospitalizations and 34 deaths. This comes as many schools, businesses and other institutions are lifting universal mask mandates both in the county and beyond.
Because of the low numbers, Bogen and county officials announced that this will be the last of their regular biweekly briefings — again, at least for now.
She reminded residents that they can still submit COVID-related questions to the Health Department, which will continue to distribute a weekly COVID report including the CDC community index, case data, variant testing data, hospitalization and death data and wastewater data with COVID variant analysis.
The existing COVID dashboards will continue to be updated, too, along with a new vaccine dashboard and an upcoming wastewater data dashboard.
Nevertheless, county officials stress that this is not the end of the pandemic; although we’ve come far, there are still miles to go.
“We’re not done. There’s variants that can continue to happen,” County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said. “We still want to get people vaccinated. We still see controversy, unfortunately, around some people who don’t want to be vaccinated.”
As of this week, about 80.5% of the county’s population older than 5 has received at least one dose. The proportion of fully vaccinated county residents is 71.5%, and 55.4% of fully vaccinated folks 12 or older have received a booster dose. Even as brighter days seem ahead, county officials still stressed the importance of getting the jab.
It’s still unknown what troubles the variants may bring, Bogen added, and health departments all around the nation still have much to learn about the virus and its long-term impact on people and communities.
“We must have humility when it comes to this virus,” she said.
Bogen added, “I can’t predict what’s going to happen in the future, but we’re in a good place right now.”